In challenging environments, such as parking structures, hospitals, airports and high density venues, ultra-wideband (UWB) technology outperforms other technologies in terms of accuracy, power consumption, robustness in wireless connectivity, and security, by a wide margin.

UWB securely determines the relative position of peer devices with a very high degree of accuracy and can operate with line of sight at up to 200 meters. In contrast to narrow band wireless technologies, the use of wide bandwidth means UWB provides very stable connectivity, with little to no interference and offers highly precise positioning, even in congested multi-path signal environments.

FiRa Power Spectrum Chart

Image 1: Spectral density for UWB and narrowband

By calculating precise location, fine ranging based on UWB is a more secure approach to closing and opening locks, whether those locks are installed on a car door, a warehouse entryway, a conference room, or your front door.

The History of UWB Within IEEE 802

UWB previously served as a technology for high data-rate communication and as such was in direct competition with Wi-Fi. Since then, UWB has undergone several transformations:

  • UWB has evolved from an OFDM-based data communication to an impulse radio technology specified in IEEE 802.15.4a (2ns pulse width); and
  • A security extension is currently being specified in IEEE 802.15.4z (at the PHY/MAC level), making it a unique and secure fine ranging technology.

Moving from data communication to secure ranging allows the spatial context capability to be utilized by a variety of applications, including hands-free access control, location-based services, and device-to-device (peer-to-peer) services.

Building on the IEEE Foundation

The starting point for UWB technology is the IEEE standard 802.15.4 and the IEEE 802.15.4z-2020 Amendment 1. This Amendment 1 is the IEEE standard for low-rate wireless networks that covers enhanced ultra-wideband (UWB) physical layers (PHYs) and associated ranging techniques. The 802.15.4 standard is widely used in a variety of applications that use ranging capabilities, such as High Rate PHY (HRP) and Low Rate PHY (LRP). In general, the IEEE 802.15.4 standard defines the PHY, MAC, and sublayers, with a focus on low-data-rate wireless connectivity and precision ranging. Different PHYs are defined for devices operating in various license-free brands in various geographic regions.

In January 2018, in response to demand for enhanced operation, the 802.15.4z task group was established to define the PHY and MAC layers for HRP and LRP. IEEE 802.15.4z is focusing on additional coding and preamble options, as well as improvements to existing modulations to increase the integrity and accuracy of ranging measurements, with a typical range of up 200 meters for the radio. Definition of an element that supports additional information will facilitate the exchange of ranging information.

It is the aim of the FiRa Consortium to build on what the IEEE has already established for HRP. That means supporting the IEEE’s work with an interoperable HRP standard that includes performance requirements, test methods and procedures, and a certification program based on the IEEE’s profiled features. It also means defining mechanisms which are out of scope of the IEEE standard, including an application layer, which discovers UWB devices and services and configures them in an interoperable manner. We are also pursuing a number of other activities, such as developing service-specific protocols for multiple verticals and defining the necessary parameters for a range of applications, including physical access control, location-based services, device-to-device services, and many more.